Jacques Maritain's

The Responsibility of the Artist


1. "'Pour pouvoir penser librement, dit Renan quelque part, il faut être sûr que ce que l'on écrit ne tirera pas à conséquence.'" Chroniques de l'Ermitage, Oeuvres complètes, Paris, NRF, 1933, vol. IV, p. 385.

2. "C'est après le repas qu'on appelle l'artiste en scène. Sa fonction n'est pas de nourrir, mais de griser." De l'Importance du Public, Ibid., p. 193.

3. "'Les questions morales vous intéressent?!' -- 'Comment donc L'étoffe dont nos livre sont faits!' -- 'Mais qu'est-ce donc, selon vous, que la morale?' -- 'Une dépendance de l'Esthétique.' Chroniques de l'Ermitage, Ibid., p. 387.

4. Sum. theol., I-II, 57, 4.

5. Quoted from Etienne Charles in Renaissance de l'Art français, April, 1918. See my book Art et Scolastique, p. 81.

6. In his book Le Coq et l'Arlequin.

7. See infra, pp. 62-64.

8. Cf. Sum. theol., II-II, 184, 1 and 2.

9. T.S. Eliot, The Use of Poetry, p. 138.

10. The Great Critics, edited by James Harry Smith and Edd Winfield Parks, New York: W. W. Norton, 1939, p. 579.

11. Ibid., p. 581.

12. Arthur Lourié, "De la Mélodie," La Vie Intellectuelle, December 25, 1936.

13. R. P. Blackmur, "The Artist as Hero," Art News, September, 1951, p. 20.

14. Jacques Rivière, "La Crise du Concept de Littérature," Nouvelle Revue Française, February 1, 1924.

15. This saying should also apply to the moving picture industry, so far as industry has a conscience.

16. Sum. theol., II-II, 169, 2, and 4.

17. I am speaking of the temporal social community, whose common good is neither divine truth nor the internal virtue and perfection of souls, but pertains to the practical order, and tends to the highest possible point, under given circumstances, of moral decency, justice, civic friendship, freedom, peace, progress and prosperity in life in common. It is only with the temporal social community (civil society and State) that the present discussion is concerned; and it is only with respect to it that the distinction I am emphasizing here between ideas as such and actions makes sense.

When it comes to that supernatural society which is the Church, whose common good is divine truth communicated to men and the inner life of grace vivifying them, the situation is quite different. Obviously such a society has to be concerned with ideas, insofar as they relate to revealed truth and inner morality, and it has a right to oppose with its own spiritual sanctions ideas which are destructive of the one or the other.

This is indeed, at least in the eyes of those who are in communion with the faith of the Church, more of an assistance than of a limitation to freedom of research, because attention to and respect for an authority which is authentically spiritual and committed to truth, can, of itself, only help and fortify us in our quest for truth. As to possible accidents -- I mean the possibility (in those cases where the infallibility of the Church is not at play) of having right ideas mistakenly opposed -- such a possibility has proved for centuries to be, as a matter of fact, more often than not a stimulus for research: given the assurance, of which every believer is possessed, that in the long run every bit of truth will be recognized and honored by a society which is the body of Christ and whose very life is divine truth.

On the Catholic positions on censorship, see Charles Journet, The Church of the Word Incarnate, London and New York, Sheed and Ward, 1954, t. I, ch. VII (with regard to the jurisdictional power of the Church), and Exigences chrétiennes en politique, Paris, Egloff, 1945, table alphabétique, "Censure" (with regard to the limitations of state censorship); Harold C. Gardiner, S.J., Catholic Viewpoint on Censorship, New York, Doubleday, 1958, and "The Catholic as Censor," a review of Father Gardiner's book by William Clancy (The Commonweal, May 9, 1958).

18. Cf. Our book Man and the State, The University of Chicago Press, 1951, p. 118.

19. Sum. theol., II-II, 35, 4, and 2.

20. The Great Critics, edit. By J.H. Smith and E.W. Parks, p. 501 (Italics ours).

21. Ibid., p. 575.

22. "Essay on Shelley" (1889), Works, London: Burns and Oates, 1913, vol III, p. 16.

23. Enneads, I, 4.

24. This was a saying of André Gide.

25. Cf. "Dialogues," in our book Art and Poetry (New York, Philosophical Library, 1943), pp. 43-44.

26. "Essay on Shelley," Works, vol. III, p. 11.

27. Cf. Raissa Maritain, "Sense and Non-Sense in Poetry," and "Magic, Poetry, and Mysticism," in The Situation of Poetry, translated by Marshall Suther, New York: Philosophical Library, 1955, pp. 17-22 and 31-36.

28. I John, v, 19.

29. François Mauriac, Le Roman, p. 80.

30. "La Femme Pauvre" (Pilgrim of the Absolute. Excerpts selected by Raissa Maritain. New York: Pantheon Books, 1947, p. 112.)

31. Léon Bloy, "Belluaires et Porchers" (Pilgrim of the Absolute, p. 106).

32. "Il n'y a qu'une tristesse, c'est de n'être pas des saints." Léon Bloy, "La Femme Pauvre" (Pilgrim of the Absolute, p. 301).

33. In "Sister Songs," Works, vol. I, p. 53.

34. "Essay on Shelley," Works, vol. III, p. 33.

35. "Dialogues," in my book Art and Poetry, p. 59.

36. Francis Carco, La Légende et la vie d'Utrillo, Paris, Grasset, 1928, p. 29.

37. "Au Seuil de l'Apocalypse" (Pilgrim of the Absolute, p. 293).

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